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Ambitious Plans: The Marriage of EVE and Dust

September 2, 2011 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

CCP is trying something ambitious -- but that doesn't seem to be making quite the waves it ought to. It is linking its successful MMO, EVE Online, directly and fundamentally into its next game, Dust 514, a console shooter.

Players in EVE and Dust will interact directly. If you play the sci-fi shooter, which will launch on the PlayStation Network as a downloadable game, you will be able to accept mercenary jobs from EVE players, or even join EVE's player-driven corporations. The economies of the games are unified, and the battles fought in Dust will have consequences for the players of EVE who run the corporations that sponsor them.

In this interview, producer Thomas Farrer, who works out of CCP's Shanghai studio, where Dust is being developed, answers questions about the tight integration of the two titles, why the company chose to go with PlayStation 3 and not Xbox 360, and how the company has been planning for this as far back as 2008.

It's interesting to hear that, as far back as 2008, with Dominion, you were planning the infrastructure to make Dust possible.

Thomas Farrer: Well, you know, I think with pretty much everything CCP does, we're always looking forward, and we're always looking to see what we might do in the future. So, there's always all kinds of ideas for where we might like to take things.

I remember having conversations together with Atli Sveinsson, the creative director on the project. We were in Sweden at the time. We were both working at DICE. I remember having conversations with him, talking about this concept, and eventually it came to fruition.

I feel like this is one of the most ambitious things happening in games right now. I don't think it's generating as much buzz as maybe it deserves -- because really I don't see anybody else trying to do something similar.

TF: I was thinking about this. Often, particularly in first-person games, games often look very inwards when it comes to how they are trying to innovate or move things forward. What we've tried to do is look more outwards.

We're not looking at innovating at all the kind of typical areas that you see. We're looking at the way you connect to the world that you're playing in, and the way that you connect to the communities and people that you're playing with. I think people aren't really so used to those kind of ideas.

It's not just the same IP; it's the same universe. Literally, Dust is hooking into the same servers.

TF: It's about trying to broaden our audience, like sort of broaden the kind of experiences we can offer players in New Eden.

I think what I find interesting is the way in which players in the two games are going to be communicating and interacting. I don't really have a grip on it.

TF: You know, between the PC and PS3, right now, we already have chat up and running, so players can type and talk to each other. Obviously, we're working on all of our communication options. EVE mail and Dust mail will be the same thing. You'll be able to interact via [community portal] EVE Gate, and also VOiP implementation as well.

Since the characters in Dust are mercenaries, the players are going to be mercenaries. Are they actually hired player-run EVE corporations?

TF: This is actually really important and goes to what you're saying about looking at how players interact. There's no difference between a Dust corporation and an EVE corporation. It's the same thing. Dust players can join an EVE corporation. If a Dust player creates a corporation, EVE players can join that corporation. It's the same thing.

Say if, for example, you only have pilots in your corp, you can quite easily hire a mercenary-only corporation to fight for you. You want them to go and just destroy someone's things on a planet or take control of them for you, you can do that. You can hire them; you can use them as mercenaries.

Or much like you see in EVE corps, you have different groups within a corporation that specialize in different things. You know, you've got your miners. You've got your pilots. You've got people manufacturing. Now you've got a standing army.

Dust is a PSN download game, but I'm assuming from the scope of it, you envision it as a live service as much as you view EVE as a live service.

TF: Yeah. Our production mentality is exactly the same. It's continuous development. Kind of like what you were saying -- like how long, or how far back we were planning this. I had a friend of mine describe this: you've always got one more bite of the apple. You don't have to discard all your ideas. If you think, "Okay, we've got to get something out here", normally it just gets cut. But in this development, it doesn't get cut. It just doesn't get done yet.

And that's a nice position to be in because, you know, to be able to craft something over a much longer period of time, but also the same way that we work together with the community in EVE, we can improve it as a group, as a team almost, together with our players. We can't be so arrogant that we're going to know how players are going to play, or how they're going to want to interact. I'm sure it's going to surprise us, and we're actually going to have to make adjustments because of that.

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Rob Allegretti
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I have been pretty excited about this for more than a couple years, and I want to point out some stuff I have observed from EVE and my two cents on how to make this work:

Things not to do:

Charge a monthly subscription fee for DUST. It is a console shooter with MMO ties, not a subscription MMO like EVE. If a player has to pay $60 for the game and then $15 a month, plus microtransactions as previously announced for items in-game, the value isn't there.

Make corporations in EVE fail if they don't have a sufficient planetside contingent. EVE should be able to be played just as EVE, and DUST should be able to be just DUST. There should be options for both to merge somehow, but give an unconnected option too.

Make single-player mode in DUST unfulfilling. If all you can do is play against AI in a couple pre-made areas unless you connect DUST with an EVE corp, you will lose a significant player base who might otherwise be useful to the community as a whole.

Require insane skills to interact with DUST players from EVE. Skills are neat for EVE, but integration should be easier than training a month of dots to be able to chat with a planet. PI skills should apply here.

Only offer it as a PS3/PSN game. PSN/Sony have had a TERRIBLE track record as of late, and they won't be getting a single dot of my contact information, or a single dollar for that console. If it's not available for 360 as well(as originally indicated) you've already lost at least one customer for DUST - me.

Things you SHOULD do:

Cross-game chat. Everyone in a corp should be able to play and chat with everyone else, regardless of which game they are playing. Vent and TS are ok for this, but to link people and locations back and forth you really need an in-game option.

Have a 'for hire' bulletin system in EVE, and a 'help wanted' bulletin system in DUST. Make it easy for players to find 'missions' or goals that are beneficial to the EVE/DUST connection, without having to be a part of a corp in either game, or even knowing fully how EVE works.

Maintain the EVE universe back story/logic in DUST, and begin develop DUST's impact on the EVE universe. Ambulation is a good start toward this end. It should expand to allow DUST players to hang out in orbit with EVE players in the command center/station.

Just for me: Make a 'telescope' option on the DUST planets that lets you see ships in orbit. I don't care how you do it, or if it's an easter egg, but it would be phenomenally awesome.

I can't wait...rock on CCP! HTFU!

Joshua George
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There's a problem already Rob. Microsoft won't allow PS/360 cross play. They will allow PC/360 cross play, but not the other. I have the feeling Sony would totally welcome this, because it focuses on the gamer, and not the money. Look at the recent steam integration and PC/PS3 cross play. It makes things better for the player.

Andy Lunique
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I agree... 100% Nuff said lol

John Hahn
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Whether or not the Dust/Eve link becomes a phenomenon, it's still a ballsy move, and I applaud CCP for it. I hope this kind of unified universe captures the imaginations of other game developers and they start coming up with new ways to combine different games into a single place.

Imagine a unified game universe where player A is playing an RTS and commanding an army of units, and player B is playing an FPS where they are receiving orders from player A and actually playing as one of the "space marine" units in player A's RTS game. It would be like an actual battlefield where you have general's that command the army from on high, and grunts who take those orders and carry them out. Who knows if such a thing would really work in practice, but I still believe that thinking in that direction and trying to find ways to create unified game universes is pretty cool.

Ramon Carroll
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When you put it this way, it sounds crazy awesome. I never thought of it like that.

It comes down to seeing how it looks in practice, though.

Matthew Bernhardt
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Successful or not, the premise is something that has been only spoken of in future tense for years and years. The mesh between two platforms that dynamically affect on another is really cool stuff. One cannot help but be excited for CCP's method of implementing that concept. Groundbreaking? I think so. Will it pull people away from Angry Birds or tending the Farm, probably not.

I was equally impressed with CCP when they hired Dr. Eyjólfur Guđmundsson, who holds a Phd in Environmental and Resource Economics to monitor EvE's economy full time. You are doing something right when your economy requires an actual economist to tune it.

Really interesting stuff, I am curious to see how it turns out.

Andrew Grapsas
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It's an amazingly awesome idea and I can't wait to see how well they pull it off. CCP is a great company and it's really cool that they're pushing the envelope.

I just refuse to get a PS3. Sadness that I won't get to play what looks like it could be an awesome shooter with deep, meaningful impact on a profoundly player-driven universe.

Jeff Stolt
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Okay, slightly off-topic question: Does anybody remember a space game from 10+ years ago featuring a "star trek like" UI, that tried to integrate a ground forces combat game as well?

This happened before, and it was definitely years before the technology allowed it to be cool. I just can't remember the name of that game...

I've been wanting this kind of game interactivity since then.

Wylie Garvin
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I remember a couple of Amiga games, one of which was a space game and one of which was a turn-based ground combat game, and they were designed to integrate together so that when you send down your landing party from the space game, it would launch the other game and you'd play out the ground-based scenario with your individual soldiers and then the space game would resume. I can't for the life of me recall the names of these games, though.

Guy Costantini
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I have been waiting for this forever and may just bite the bullet and buy the ps3 for it. I will wait though, if it was PC also I would buy it immediately and re-activate my Eve Megathron :P